AudiotourThe Biscari Collection
During the 18th century, the Catanese patrician Ignazio Paternò Castello, 5th prince of Biscari and prominent personality of the Sicilian Enlightenment culture, was forming in his Marina palace a rich collection of archeological artifacts and artworks.
He was the promoter of a series of important archaeological excavations in the urban area of Catania: he brought to light part of the ancient theatre's structure and some of its sculptures; in the alleged Forum of the Roman city, he found a colossal emperor torso, then deemed as a statue of Jupiter; in the zone of Piazza Duomo, under the Cathedral, he recovered an important thermal complex adorned with mosaic decorations; and in the area of Piazza Dante, he discovered a thermal building and a nymphaeum.
The core of the Biscari collection is constituted of archaeological materials coming from excavations executed in both Catania and in the antique Camarina, from his family's collections, and from purchases from Naples, Rome, and Florence's antique markets. Among the most precious items of this collection are some splendid Attic vases, archaic terracotta figurines, and bronze artifacts.
His collection was, from the 18th century, an attraction of importance for the Grand Tour travellers. Indeed, Goethe and Brydone dedicated many pages of their reports to the Biscari and Benedictine antiques collections.
From 1862, the city of Catania attempted to take the Biscari collection into its possession, as the important collection risked to get dispersed among the prince's many heirs. It is only between 1927 and 1930, with donations from his heirs and the 1926 purchase of 50,000 Italian lires' worth of artifacts, that the collection finally entered in the civic collection's patrimony.
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